Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers goalie Tim Thomas questionable for game vs. Capitals

The Florida Panthers will host John Vanbiesbrouck and hand out thousands of bobbleheads (somewhat) in his likeness Friday night.

The Beezer may just need to suit up.

Tim Thomas, Florida’s current starting goalie, left practice early Thursday and didn’t return.

Coach Peter Horachek said he didn’t immediately know what Thomas’ status was for Friday’s game against the Capitals.

If Thomas is unavailable, Jacob Markstrom would be recalled from AHL San Antonio — the team is in Charlotte, N.C. — and possibly play against Washington.

Backup Scott Clemmensen played well in Florida’s 3-2 shootout loss to the host Capitals on Nov. 2 but said Thursday he had not been told anything.

“I don’t know what the issue was, whether it was equipment or it was him,” Horachek said of Thomas. “He just said he had to go. … That’s where we are.”

Thomas has missed time on two separate occasions this season with what is thought to be groin injuries. Thomas missed four games when he first got hurt in Florida’s third game of the season in Philadelphia on Oct. 8, then missed six games when he got hurt on Oct. 22.

Thomas has started 14 of the past 15 games since his return Nov. 9 at Ottawa and has nine of Florida’s 10 wins this season.

Markstrom got the other win in Florida’s home opener against Pittsburgh.

•  It doesn’t appear that center Nick Bjugstad is going anywhere, yet Horachek hasn’t told him to find a permanent living arrangement. Bjugstad is still living at the “vacation village” where the Panthers often house players temporarily.

“It’s like an apartment,” Bjugstad said. “I’m fine with it.”

Bjugstad was thought to start the season in the minors but after missing all of training camp and the first six games with a concussion, started the season with the Panthers on Oct. 15.

Bjugstad, 21, has five goals and 12 points in 26 games this season. His goal off Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard on Tuesday was one of the Panthers’ best this season.

“I would say he’s pretty secure right now, but no one is totally ever secure,” Horachek said. “Even if you tell a guy to get a place, that doesn’t guarantee anything. But he’s doing a pretty good job.”

•  Vanbiesbrouck will be the first former player honored with a bobblehead as the team celebrates its 20th anniversary season.

“It’s hard to believe time goes by so fast,” said Vanbiesbrouck, who played for Florida from 1993-98.

Florida will have six such giveaways this season, with Pavel Bure (Jan. 24), Thomas (March 9), GM Dale Tallon (March 14) and Scott Mellanby (March 16) also honored.

Brian Skrudland, the team’s first captain who is currently an assistant coach, said he’s looking forward to his first bobblehead. That will be the final such giveaway of the season April 4.

“If they wanted to make it like me, they would make the mouth move and not just the head,” Skrudland joked. “Anytime you get recognized like this is an honor. I don’t care if it’s a bobblehead or a beer label.”

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